Mental health costs the economy £99bn per year, but a “stigma” remains, QBE-commissioned research reveals

At the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, research commissioned by QBE shows that a “stigma” remains around mental health in the workplace.

A recent government study, entitled Thriving at Work: a Review of Mental Health and Employers, has shown that mental health illness costs the economy £99bn a year.

This should “ focus the mind of business leaders and encourage them to take this issue seriously,” according to Grant Clemence, director of underwriting and mental health champion at QBE Business Insurance.

Over three quarters (77%) of managers surveyed in QBE’s research believe that employers have a responsibility to tackle workplace stress.

Despite this, the QBE-commissioned research reveals that many managers are struggling to deal with mental health issues in the workplace.

More than a quarter (28%) of managers do not know how to deal with staff members’ mental health issues, the survey of 502 UK senior decision makers reveals.

Over three quarters (77%) of those working in businesses with fewer than 1000 employees admit that their business is not open about mental health issues.

In businesses with over 1000 employees, almost two thirds (61%), said the same.

In addition, 43% claim to have received no mental health training.

Many decision makers would not feel secure in disclosing their own mental health issues.

Over a quarter (26%) confirmed that they would not want to disclose theirs to a colleague, while a quarter said they do not feel supported in managing their own mental wellbeing.

This is despite over three quarters (77%) believing that employers have a responsibility to tackle workplace stress.

Clemence said: “The mental wellbeing of employees is an area businesses need to take more responsibility for. Our ‘always on’ culture can put immense pressure on individuals, which, compounded with demands in their personal lives, can really take a toll on their mental health and result in a person who is not functioning at their best.”

There is a stronger reluctance to discuss mental health issues at work among younger managers (36%) than over 55s (21%), the survey reveals.

Just under two fifths (38%) of those surveyed felt that stress in the workplace was ‘inevitable’ and out of an employer’s control.

Clemence continued: “Our research highlights the stigma that prevails around mental health in the workplace. The majority of Senior Managers want the tools and training to support themselves and their teams and yet at the same time a large number don’t believe it’s an issue that should be discussed in the workplace.

”That absolutely needs to change and a key way to do that is to create a work environment where it is okay to talk about mental health.”

He concluded: “Almost 16 million work days a year are lost as a result of mental ill health which is a significant productivity risk for businesses.

”There is also the potential liability exposure to consider if employees are masking mental health issues that could compromise their performance. Employee wellbeing should form part of a company’s holistic risk assessment with processes in place to manage the associated risks.”

QBE mental health awareness